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Product Review – Talenti Gelato Peppermint Bark

 mint

If you have been reading my blog you’ll know I’m a big fan of Talenti gelatos, having reviewed their products here and here. One of my favorite flavors is Mediterranean Mint, but I have eaten that so many times and felt like getting something new to review. I selected Peppermint Mark because I thought it would likely taste similar, while giving me the opportunity to try a new product.

I didn’t quite understand the naming until I did a Google search and discovered “peppermint bark” was a traditional candy consisting of peppermint candy (candy cane, etc.) pieces embedded in a ‘bark’ of white and dark chocolatess. I have never eaten it so cannot say whether it is a fitting name. The base ingredients are pretty much the same, but I can’t see how the texture is even close.

Flavor

This gelato has an extremely fresh mint taste, backed up by a nice portion of irregularly-shaped chocolate chips strewn about. The experience of eating this pure white cream is quite different from the light green colored Mediterranean Mint because of the color difference, but the actual test is very similar. As I said in the intro, this pretty much lines up with my expectations. The only difference  I detected was a slight graininess in the texture (maybe that is supposed to represent the ‘bark’), but it could be my imagination. Until I try these two back-to-back I won’t know for sure.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 100 gram serving there is 240 calories, slightly above the average of other Talenti gelatos which is roughly 210-220. This is clearly not something you should eat frequently when counting calories. There is 26 grams of sugar,  on the low side of Talenti ice creams (Sea Salt Caramel is a whopping 36 g), but a little excessive for my personal health guidelines. Both of these values are very close to Bryer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream, when adjusted by serving size weight, so there is nothing too unusual here.

This product has a few qualifications that make it available to a wide group of people: vegetarian, gluten free, HFCS free, hormone free, and kosher.

There are only 11 ingredients and all natural ones at that. Above all I am very impressed that there is no ‘natural flavors’, because that was present in their Mediterranean Mint flavor. The other differences between these two is that Peppermint Bark has added vanilla and oil (coconut and soybean), and peppermint extract is used instead of fresh mint. The latter explains the color difference between these two products.

Because of the natural ingredients and fresh taste, this is now my 3rd favorite Talenti gelato, after Coffee Chocolate Chip and Caribbean Coconut.

Full ingredient list: milk, sugar, cream, dutched chocolate, dextrose, oil (coconut, soybean), peppermint extract, vanilla, carob gum, soy lechitin

“Dutched chocolate” refers to chocolate processed with alkali, which gives it a browner color and milder taste. Its a pretty common process though I rarely see it listed as “dutched”, but rather as “processed with alkali”. Strictly speaking this is a “unnatural” process that I would like makers to avoid, but it’s a minor nitpick and not sure if how the replacement of natural chocolate would affect the flavor.

(Meditteranean Mint ingredients:  milk, sugar, cream, chocolate, dextrose, natural flavors, fresh mint, carob gum, soy lechitin)

Price/Availability

I purchased this ice cream at Publix grocery store for around $5.99 and haven’t seen it at any other stores in my area. The packaging is marked as “Limited Edition” so eat it while you can, but it seems to have been around since at least December 2012, making the odds of it suddenly disappearing less likely.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.0  Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0  Price: 7.0    Overall: 7.6

Summary

This gelato is a mint-lovers delight with nothing unnatural and would be perfect if not for the excessive sugar and calories hidden within.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_process_chocolate

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppermint_bark

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LaLoo’s Deep Chocolate Goat’s Milk Ice Cream

lala 

When I first saw this product around a year ago, I was attracted by it’s unique packaging and high price. I didn’t know much about goat’s milk and frankly was a little hesitant, but decided to take the plunge for a new sweet desert experience. It was glad I didn’t chicken out because I ended up discovering a great product!

Flavor

Its funny because fundamentally I shouldn’t like this product. Several years back I got tired of all plain vanilla and chocolate ice creams, and recently tend to gravitate to things which have nuts, chocolate chips, or something else to provide a balanced contrast of flavors. But there is something special about this which makes me always want to come back for more.

Texture-wise this ice cream is very similar to typical cow’s milk ice cream, and that is no surprise given these two milks are similar in composition. It’s very creamy and doesn’t get hard in the freezer, so I can eat it right away after pulling it out, whereas some other non-milk based products have odd textures or require waiting to get soft enough to enjoy.

When I take in a mouth full of this ice cream my first thought is of plain old chocolate ice cream. But as it sits in my mouth, I begin to notice two things. First, the chocolate (listed 3rd on label) tastes a little stronger than some other brands. I want to describe it’s taste as “refined” or “elegant”, but I think there is some bias on my side since I know the chocolate comes from a name brand chocolate maker (Scharffen Berger). Also, the goat milk adds a new dimension with some subtle flavors not present in typical ice creams. Some describe goat milk as extra sweet, or salty, but I find these words don’t really mean much to me. Just try it yourself and you might just get hooked like I did.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In a 90 gram serving there is a 160 calories and 15 grams of sugars. The sugar content is quite low compared to many milk-based ice creams, and comparable to many coconut milk-based ones. The calorie content is also much less than average compared to both other types of products. For comparison I’ll present a brief table with values for a few other products, adjusted by weight.

  • LaLoo’s deep chocolate        => 177 calories / 17 grams of sugars
  • Ben & Jerry’s chocolate therapy  => 250 calories / 23 grams of sugars
  • Publix premium chocolate             => 205 calories / 21 grams of sugars
  • Talenti double dark chocolate      => 210 calories / 25 grams of sugars
  • So Delicious german chocolate    => 212 calories / 16 grams of sugars

Protein is moderate, at 5 grams per serving.

Unlike many other products which are made with unnamed chocolate, this one utilizes Sharffen Berger chocolate, whose chocolate bars you have seen in the grocery store. Scharffen Berger is a chocolate maker founded in 1997 in San Francisco, and was “the first American ‘bean-to-bar’ chocolate manufacturer in over 50 years,” according to their website. I haven’t done any direct taste comparison of their bars and can’t say for certain they do anything special compared to other chocolate products, but for chocolate fanatics this is a nice bonus and might have some nutritional benefits as well.

Speaking of nutritional benefits, the main advantage of this product is that is contains goat’s milk instead of the typical cow’s milk found in ice cream. It is claimed that goat’s milk has a few benefits over cow’s milk. For example, it is less likely to trigger allergies, easier to digest, and more friendlier to those who are lactose intolerant. It is also reported to be closer to human breast milk.

I can’t say conclusively that goat’s milk is better than cow’s milk, but in the vein of getting a wide selection of different types of nutrients, I suggest trying to add goat milk products to your diet a little at a time.

This product has only 11 ingredients, and of those the only one that I would consider debatable is carrageenan, used for it’s thickening properties (among other things). I’ve spoke about this briefly in another post (here) but I wish was not used in ice cream products.

Full ingredient list: Goat Milk, Sugar, Scharffen Berger (processed with alkali) semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin, vanilla), Egg Yolks, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan.

Price/Availability

This ice cream is quite hard to find. The only place I have seen it sold recently is the Whole Foods Market in Fort Lauderdale (info here), selling at $6.99 for a pint (473 mL).

I remember seeing it for a bit more a few months ago, though I don’t remember the exact price. It was somewhere in the range $7.99 to $8.99. In any case I’m glad they dropped the price. Even $6.99 is quite expensive considering you can get many coconut and milk-based desserts for a dollar or two cheaper. But, given goat milk ice creams are quite rare (I don’t know of any others), it is fair for this to have a certain premium.

Ratings:   Flavor: 8.5   Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0    Price:  7.0  Overall: 7.83

Summary

This goat milk ice cream, natural and delicious, is a great vacation away from your average milk-based ice cream. It’s a little pricey, but its unique flavor makes up for that.

References

http://www.laloos.com/flavors.php

http://www.laloos.com/images/nutritional_Deep_Chocolate.jpg

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/fortlauderdale

http://www.scharffenberger.com/our-story/history/

http://www.eatlifewhole.com/2013/06/goats-milk-vs-cows-milk-is-there-a-difference/

http://www.mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/

Is Fruit Really Unconditionally Better Than Desserts? (the answer may surprise you)

I commonly read that sugar in products such as ice cream and cookies is unhealthy, and those with a craving for sweets should redirect their urges to fruits which are healthier and more natural.

But why are fruits healthier? A good place to start is this article, where a food scientist/R.D. (registered dietitian) talks about the health advantages of fruit over candy and desserts. I’ll quote a few of the key points here but I recommend you read the entire article for proper context.

  • “fruit offers good stuff like vitamins, antioxidants and water, while candy and desserts are nutritionally void”
  • “Fruit also tends to have less sugar by volume.”
  • “whole fruit has a lot of fiber”

Let’s look at each of these points in turn with actual fruit and dessert examples.

First, no one will deny that fruit has vitamins, antioxidants, water, and a whole bunch of other things we haven’t even identified yet. Since this stuff is natural, it seems logical that much of it is good for the body, and I’m sure there are studies out there that show how certain fruits have various beneficial effects.

But stating candy and desserts are “nutritionally void” is an extreme exaggeration that is clearly not true for all products. Sure, many of the popular candy products (think ‘Halloween candy’) and desserts contain a good portion of lab-made chemicals and heavily processed ingredients. But is there any candies or desserts with any nutritional value?

Thanks to the health movement which has gained popularly in the last few years, we now see entire grocery stores dedicated to healthy, natural food. In my area there is Whole Foods Market, Mother Earth Natural Foods, and many smaller ones. With this there is are loads of healthier products flooding the markets, those with organic, natural ingredients, and an absence of things like artificial colors and flavors. I would say at least half of the products I’ve reviewed in this blog I would consider healthy, if not more.

To give one recent example of a recently reviewed healthy product, take So Delicious’s coconut milk mint chip frozen dessert. It contains several ingredients which are known to have good amounts of minerals and vitamins such as coconut (oil and cream), cocoa, and spearmint. It also contains water, which was another of the items mentioned in the article. This is just one example which clearly has many vitamins and nutrients, and until someone shows me a clinical study comparing specific deserts and fruits showing the actual long-term effects of each, I am not convinced fruits have more vitamins and minerals in all cases.

I mentioned one desert product, but there are many like this including those made with cashews, nuts, almonds, soy, rice, and other things thought to be nutritionally rich.

The next point is whether fruit has less sugar by volume. I will first list the sugar per weight for a few fruits based on the figures from sugarstacks.com.

  • Grapes: 16%
  • Cantaloupe: 8%
  • Navel Orange: 9%
  • Apple slices: 10%
  • Banana: 12%
  • Watermelon: 13%
  • Average: 11.3%

Next I’ll show the values for a few ice cream/frozen desserts.

  • Talenti Argentine Caramel: 33%
  • Talenti Caribbean Coconut: 25%
  • So Delicious Coconut Milk Chocolate: 14%
  • So Delicious No Sugar Added Mint Chip: 1%
  • Laloos Vanilla Snowflake: 22%
  • Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan: 20%
  • Average: 19.1%

Overall there is about 70% more sugar in these products, which is consistent with the article’s claim that desserts have more sugar than fruits. Keep in mind, this is just a small sample of frozen desserts, and does not include many other sweet products that have significantly more (or less) sugar levels. Although I only included one product with no sugar added, there are many others of this type, some using sweeteners which may have negative effects on the body (though I would say those are not well known yet).

There are even some cases where fruits have more sugar than a frozen dessert, such as grapes (16%) compared to So Delicious’s chocolate frozen dessert (14%). This product utilizes agave as its main sweetener, which some say is healthier than white sugar. There are others which say simply say ‘sugar is sugar’ which would also mean the sugar from fruits and desserts is the same in terms of how the body digests is.

I cannot dispute the article’s final point that whole fruit has alot of fiber. However, taking the mint chip frozen dessert I discussed above as an example, it has 6 grams of sugar in 85 grams, which gives around 7% fiber of total weight. Much of this fiber comes from chicory root extract.

Here is the fiber per total weight ratios of a few common fruits:

  • Apple: 2.4%
  • Oranges: 2%
  • Raspberries: 7%
  • Peaches: 1.5%
  • Pears: 3.1%
  • Average:3.2%

In this case we can see a dessert has over twice the fiber as several fruits, a few of these were listed as “high fiber fruits”.

Just from this quick analysis, it seems obvious to me that fruits do not have an unconditional win in the fight against desserts and candies. By no means am I saying fruits are not worth eating, since studies (plus common sense) say that eating a variety of fruits is best. But if you are careful about which desserts you choose, focusing on those with natural, nutritious ingredients, I think you can still maintain a healthy diet. It make take a little time to get used to these “healthier” desserts after a lifetime of eating the unhealthy, popular ones, but its worth it since then you can eat (nearly) guilt free.

My biggest concern about desserts is the high fat and calorie content, though this completely depends on how much you eat. From a weight gaining perspective, its clearly less healthy to eat a gallon of ice cream a day versus a banana. But a quarter-pint (single serving) of most ice creams a day shouldn’t cause significant weight gain.

Don’t let an “expert” tell you that you shouldn’t eat desserts. I’m not going to completely stop eating sweets and go all fruit until there is sufficient clinical evidence showing that seemingly healthy products line coconut milk frozen desserts are actually harmful in some way.

Do your own research and enjoy the sweetness that desserts bring to your life!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/29/fruit-sugar-versus-white-sugar_n_3497795.html

http://www.sugarstacks.com/fruits.htm

http://www.fitsugar.com/Fiber-Fruits-209893

http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-dietary-fiber.php

Three Twins Organic Ice Cream, Milk Coffee (Free Trade!)

3twins

Intro

I tried this for the first time several months ago while on a coffee ice cream kick. It’s my favorite of the healthy coffee ice creams, so I thought I would review it. I’ll report on my favorite less-healthy coffee ice cream later.

Flavor

The flavor is much what you would expect from the product name – sweetened milk and coffee. There isn’t any unexpected flavors or toppings mixed in. Compared to other coffee ice creams I’ve had, everything is a little toned down, and the dominant flavor and texture is that of milk, rather than coffee. It brings back memories of when I used to drink iced milk as a boy and the milk would crystallize around the cubes.

This cream tastes significantly better when eaten in a half-melted state, bringing out extra flavor and texture. Carving out chunks of frozen cream with a spoon and popping in your mouth to chew just doesn’t give quite the same satisfaction as running your tongue across cold coffee-infused milk.

Nutrition / Ingredients

Both the sugar and calorie count is a less than similar ice creams in the same class, with 200 calories and 17 grams sugar in a 85 gram serving. There’s 4 servings per container.

All seven ingredients are organic, with three of them Fair Trade. In fact, according to a March 2013 press release by the company, this is the first Fair Trade organic ice cream, and I haven’t found any evidence to the contrary. For those unfamiliar with Free Trade, I’ll briefly quote Wikipedia’s entry on this (see references section at bottom for link):

“Fair trade is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability.”

As always, the ingredients speak for themselves, listed here in the order of highest concentration first: whole milk, cream, evaporated cane juice, nonfat milk, egg yolks, coffee, and vanilla extract. As you can see, three of the top four ingredients are diary related, which explains the dominant milk taste.

Price and Availability

This product is available at Whole Foods Market for $4.69, an excellent price considering the delicious taste and natural ingredients. Its also available at The Fresh Market and a few other places in South Florida.

Ratings

Flavor:7.0

Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0

Price:8.5

Total: 7.8

Summary

Nothing revolutionary here, simply a handful of natural ingredients put together with a great milk coffee taste and mild sweetness. Definitely recommended for coffee-flavored ice cream lovers.

References

I was not able to find the nutritional and ingredient information listed online, but have sent an email to the company requesting this. Will update back when I get more information.

http://www.threetwinsicecream.com/blog/2013/03/three-twins-ice-cream-launches-first-horsemeat-free-ice-cream-at-expo-west-2013-at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_trade

Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter – spread made for royalty

justin1

Introduction

I’ll continue in the same vein as my last review and report on another of my sweet favorites. This one is a spread, typically used to complement something like bread, a bagel, or a crepe, but its heavenly flavor is far from secondary – more like the main event.

Speaking of spreads – In my college days I was addicted to the well-known Nutella hazelnut spread. Several years later, after I had weaned myself away from that sugary goodness, I discovered Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter. In many ways it was the healthier version of Nutella, so I decided to try it. I’ve never looked back since.

Flavor

It’s a bit difficult to describe the taste for those who have never tasted a hazelnut butter before, but I’ll try my best. It has a deep nutty flavor, not unlike peanut butter, with subtle roasted overtones. In this spread, the hazelnuts strike a harmony against rich cocoa and the sublime sweetness of cane sugar. Compared with everyday peanut butter, it has a high-class ambiance to it, almost as if it was made for royalty.

Let me try to convey how yummy this stuff is in another way. Its addictive, very addictive. I’d feel a bit too guilty eating this straight out of the jar so I always spread it on something, usually bread. But bread itself can be quite filling, so I actually have caught myself more than once trying to eat a small dinner just to have that many more slices of bread in the evening, layered thick with “Justin”.

It’s aroma is nutty and buttery rather than chocolaty, as should be expected since there is a much higher proportion of nuts than cocoa.

After eating this product quite frequently for a year or so, my only gripe regarding flavor is that the texture is very inconsistent. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to get the best experience each time. When it’s overly oily, give a long, vigorous mix to balance out the oil more evenly. When its extra dry (as it was last time I bought it), mix in a few tablespoons of walnut oil. The flavor doesn’t change appreciably, but the increase in spreadability is well worth it, enabling better control over the amount used and less chance of tearing the bread.

Nutrition / Ingredients

As I alluded to in the introduction, this is an upgraded, healthier version of classic Nutella spread. That means a whole lot less sugar (approximately one third of Nutella’s), and much more hazelnuts.

One of my simple tests for healthiness is the number of ingredients. This passes easily, with only eight ingredients, and half of those are organic. Evaporated cane sugar, more natural and less processed, is used in place of commonplace refined white sugar. Add to that a touch of natural sea salt, produced by the evaporation of seawater. There are no vague terms such as “natural flavors”, and nothing artificial is used.

For a single serving (2 tablespoons), there are 180 calories and 7 grams of sugar. The problem with spreads is that its very hard to judge the amount being used, especially if applied with a knife (as opposed to a spoon which is no small feat). I’ve noticed if I’m not careful I can easily exceed a serving *per slice of bread*, and its no wonder once after a few weeks or eating a few of these slices a night I gained a few of pounds. The good news is if you can get yourself to spread thin you’ll healthier while still enjoying the rich, nutty flavor. You’ll taste more of the bread as well, or whatever you are spreading on.

For those who really want to count their calories, you can buy the single serving packs. I tried this a few times, but kept running into the problem of trying to squeeze out every last ounce, rather than enjoying my snack. More waste produced means this isn’t an environmentally friendly option either.

With the low amount of sugar, where do all the calories come from? Well, it turns out that nuts are extremely fatty. Having said that, If it came to a choice of calories from nuts as opposed processed like corn syrup, I’d pick the former. Hazelnuts also naturally pack a good amount of protein (4 g per serving here), which is a nice extra.

One minor nitpick is that sometime around 2012 they added a significant portion of almonds to their formula.  Though I easily adjusted to the subtle change in flavor, the purist in me was frustrated by this recipe modification. I went so far as to send the company an email requesting why. Here is an unmodified excerpt of their polite response, which didn’t take too long to get back to me.

“We were getting a ton of feedback that it was just too hazelnutty. Since our chocolate spreads contain 70% nut and others contain only around 10% nuts, people just weren’t used to the robust hazelnut taste. We cut in almonds to round out the flavor.”

Serving Suggestions

Odds are whatever base you choose to ornament with this spread, the sweet, nutty flavor will overpower it. This transforms mediocre breads, which would otherwise be left to go stale, into delicious desserts. But why not be health conscious and choose a quality bread with natural ingredients?

I recommend Whole Food’s “Prairie Bread” which has a diverse mix of nuts and seeds. It’s slightly stiff texture makes it ideal to help defend against tearing when using a bottle of “Justin” that happens to be a little low on oil. This combination is sweet enough to be called a desert, yet is much better nutritionally than most other sweets I eat.

Price and Availability

This spread can be found in places like Whole Foods, Target, as well as online for $8-$9. This price is undeniably hard on the wallet, but I’m apt to forgive considering hazelnuts are typically very expensive compared to other nuts.

I happened to pick up my last two jars at around $6 on sale in Whole Foods. Unfortunately that deep of a discount is quite rare.

Ratings

Flavor: 9.0

Nutrition/Ingredients: 8.0

Price: 6.0

Overall: 7.6

Summary

A chocolaty nut butter whose addictive taste is offset by a high price tag and a minor problems with inconsistent oil content. Much healthier than some competing products, this product must be consumed in moderation to reap those benefits.

References

http://www.justins.com/products.php

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